In 1860, Jennie Naughton brings her five-year old son, Jeremy, to Victoria, British Columbia, far from a scandal in England. She creates a new name and a new life for herself and her son. Unfortunately, when smallpox kills Jeremy, Jennie is left alone, feeling “forever bound to a lie.” Jonas Breed, an American raised on Hawaii and fostered by a sea captain, was captured as a lad by Haida Indians. For seven years Jonas was a mistchimas – a slave – until he won his freedom by saving his Indian master. However, he notes that “Sometimes we are forever mistchimas.”
Jonas and Jennie are drawn together after she nurses Jonas’s smallpox-stricken Indian and Hawaiian friends. She is intrigued by the mysterious Jonas, who bears the emblem of slavery tattooed on his wrist. However, Jonas can no more remove it than Jennie can erase her past. It follows her to Victoria in the person of an Englishman who recognizes her and remembers the scandal that, though she was blameless, still pursues her.
Mist-Chi-Mas, a historical romance by J. L. Oakley, drips with atmosphere like rain from the misty Olympic forests. She tantalizes readers with hints about Jonas’ and Jennie’s lives that they would prefer kept secret, their complex, doomed love affair, and the mysterious business partner who comes to the forefront after Jennie’s husband is killed. My sole complaint is that, for a book subtitled “a novel of captivity,” Mist-Chi-Mas reveals almost nothing about Jonas’s life among his Haida captors, and the scandalous past that Jennie is fleeing is also sketchy. Even so, I enjoyed Mist-Chi-Mas, and recommend it.